April 2006

From The Mind Of Gary Gillette

Upon reading a Gary Gillette chat at ESPN today, Gillette mentioned something that I had never heard or considered before: 

"I believe that it is very likely Mike Piazza used steroids, but I have no proof. But I’m also not trying to suspend him, put him in jail, or strip him from the record books, either."

I think Gillette is a fine author and he’s one of my favorite columnists at ESPN.  I was surprised to hear him say this so bluntly.  However, it appears that this kind of speculation has been floating around for years.  I found this blog post from two years ago, where the author quotes Piazza commenting on steroid testing way back in 1997:

"I think it’s unnecessary in baseball. I mean, would you drug-test billiard players or chess players? You can take a .200 hitter and give him all of the drugs you can find, and would that make him a .300 hitter? No."

It almost seems like one of those weird non-denial type things that we’ve seen in recent years.  Like when Barry Bonds regularly tries to divert us by telling us that the world has bigger problems and that we should all be spending our time trying to cure cancer instead of investigating him.

Many sportswriters have recently pondered:  does Bud Selig realize the possible unintended consequences of the Mitchell investigation?  That perhaps "nice guys" like Piazza will be revealed as steroid users as well?

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Report: Sox To Break Up Starting Five

Curious about Kenny Williams’s plans?  No more need to guess whether he’ll trade one of his starting five – he came right out and said it:

"While I don’t think there can be an excess of pitching, I do realize that before the start of the ’07 season, with all things staying the same, we’re going to have to find a spot for Brandon. Where or how that shapes up, I don’t know."

Of course, KW is in the catbird seat.  He has an excess of the most valuable commodity in baseball, and none of his guys are impending free agents.  He may consider dealing one of the five within a couple of months for bullpen help and whatever else he needs, but the Sox will give the current relievers a shot first.  They may need reinforcements by May. But the ‘pen is not bad, as solid years are expected from Cotts, Politte and McCarthy.  Jenks is a bit of a wild card.  It’s just that it’s unreasonable to expect this group to match the 2005 performance without some help.

A rundown of each starter’s age and contract status:

Javier Vazquez (29) – $11.5MM in 2006, $12.5MM in 2007. Eligible for arbitration in 2008.

Freddy Garcia (29) – $9MM in 2006, $10MM in 2007

Jose Contreras (34) – $8MM in 2006, $9MM in 2007, $10MM in 2008, $10MM in 2009

Mark Buehrle (27) – $7.75MM in 2006, $9.5MM club option in 2007

Jon Garland (26) – $7MM in 2006, $10MM in 2007, $12MM in 2008

Buehrle is without a doubt the most valuable of the five.  Will Walt Jocketty make a play to bring him back home?

P.S. Did Uribe really draw two walks last night?  What the?

Daily Baseball Picks

DailyBaseballPicks is now up and running!  I only had one choice for a game today, but I made my pick anyway.  Go Tribe!

Learn about that future dynasty, the Florida Marlins, at Hardball Times.

The Juice’s Under the Radar Players for ’06.

Richard Justice makes an important point – again.  I’m still seeing misinformation reported about this everywhere.

The gold standard of April Fool’s jokes.

MetsBlog makes some sort-of predictions for the upcoming season.

Finally, I will be appearing tonight on Sports Talk, WICB‘s weekly sports talk show at Ithaca College.

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Sox Brass Displeased With Jenks, Hermanson

All April Fooling aside, let’s get down to some serious trade rumor business.  I just spoke with a respected White Sox source, so here’s the latest info.

Seems the club’s decision makers are quite vexed with both Bobby Jenks and Dustin Hermanson

Not only did Jenks show up overweight to spring training, but he still hasn’t gotten into shape.  His conditioning, and not his velocity, is the point of concern here.

The Sox are incensed at Hermanson for telling them he was OK when he really wasn’t.  The severe back problems could force him to retire, and he did not give the team early warning to prepare.

UPDATE:  My source just got back to me with further details on Hermanson.  He told me:

"Kenny and Ozzie called him into Ozzie’s office around the first weekend of March and asked if his back condition was bad enough for them to look for a reliever. He said no.  Then a few weeks later the news came out in the papers that Hermanson would consider career-threatening surgery if the epidural shots didn’t work.  When Kenny read that, it sent him over the edge."

In 2005, Jenks and Hermanson combined for 96.6 innings of 2.33 ERA ball with 40 saves.  The Sox need to replace this production somehow, and obviously Boone Logan and Matt Thornton aren’t the answer.  Jenks and Hermanson have put management in a compromising position – they’ll be forced to trade for a reliever in the near future.  The starting six will have to be broken up.

The Biggest Games. The Best Tickets. StubHub.com

Carlos Lee To Cubs Deal Imminent

MLBTradeRumors has learned of a blockbuster deal that is expected to go down by the end of the day.  Talks between Jim Hendry and Doug Melvin are in advanced stages of a rare interdivision trade. 

The Cubs will send Matt Murton, Rich Hill, and Angel Guzman to the Brewers for slugger Carlos Lee.  Lee will be a free agent after the 2006 season, and the Cubs intend to lock him up after finishing the Derrek Lee deal.  According to my source, the Brewers view Lee’s impending free agency as a distraction and desperately want to shed his $8.5MM salary. 

Lee is expected to bat fourth between the other Lee, Derek, and Aramis Ramirez.

What do you think?  Did the Cubs overpay to get the other Lee?